COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: Matt Beleskey
Countdown to camp: Matt Beleskey
From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2017-18 Bruins. Today: Matt Beleskey.
When Matt Beleskey signed with the Bruins a couple of summers ago, it upped the expectations on his output for each and every season. The 29-year-old winger is coming off a season that fell well short of those expectations amid injuries and under-performance, and Beleskey is hoping to prove this season that last year was an aberration full of bad breaks. Given that he’s signed for three more years and the Bruins didn’t part ways with him last summer, Beleskey will get that chance this season to revert back to the player he’s been for most of his NHL career, a hard-nosed, decently productive winger capable of helping the Bruins with both his offense and his physicality.
What Happened Last Year
Beleskey started extremely slowly on a third line that saw him saddled with Jimmy Hayes on his other wing, and then really fell behind when he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of action for almost two months. When Beleskey returned he was well behind everybody else with his conditioning and seemed to constantly be chasing the puck rather than dictating terms to opponent. This kept his physicality element pretty quiet for most of the season, and it caused Beleskey to slump to three goals, eight points and a minus-10 for the season. In essence it felt like a lost year for a player that was coming off his best two seasons at the NHL level. The rough year kicked up some trade rumors, left Beleskey unprotected on Boston’s expansion draft list and also put him in danger of potentially getting bought out of his contract. Through all of that Beleskey remained with the Bruins, and will get his chance to bounce back from an obviously disappointing season.
Questions To Be Answered This Season
At 29 years old, the question for Matt Beleskey is whether last season was an outlier or a sign that he was beginning to slow down after logging some heavy miles playing a physical NHL game. He’s never going to be a perennial 20-goal scorer or a consistent top-6 forward because the offensive game just isn’t consistently there enough for him, but Beleskey should still be able to be an extremely effective bottom-6 winger capable of playing up in the lineup on occasion. Beleskey is highly motivated to show that last season was the exception rather than the rule, and that he’s still got several good, productive years ahead of him for the Black and Gold. He’ll also need to show it in order to stave off some of the young players that may begin challenging for his spot on the roster. Needless to say the motivation level for Beleskey should be sky-high for the Bruins this season, and that should mean the best that he has to give at this point in his career.
In Their Words
"It’s not what I wanted last year and I’m really ready to get things going. I just need to have some confidence and stick with my game. I don’t think you lose your hockey-playing ability in one year. I came off the best year of my hockey career the year before, so I just need to get some bounces, use my confidence and skill and work hard. It’s the first I really experienced [a down season], so I just need to keep working through it.” –Matt Beleskey, on bouncing back in a strong way this season from last year’s down campaign.
Given the type of competitor that Matt Beleskey is and the pride he takes in his game, one would expect to see a really strong season out of him in Boston this year. He managed 15 goals and 37 points in his first season in Boston, and swung the balance of at least a couple of individual games with his battering physicality. It was exactly what the Bruins thought they were getting when they signed him, and exactly the kind of player that Boston can use to play to their team identity. A number of factors caused things to go off the rails for Beleskey last season, but there’s no reason to think he can’t rebound for the Black and Gold at 29 years old. While his future in Boston might make him a bit of an overpaid third or fourth line winger, there’s no reason to think that Beleskey can’t immediately get back to the player he was in his first season with the Bruins.